Becoming Swiss: Switzerland enacts new citizenship eligibility rules - Tax Blog

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The recently revised Federal Act on Swiss Citizenship puts in place new eligibility requirements for applying for Swiss citizenship. We have listed below the most significant changes for the ordinary naturalization process that apply to all applications filed on or after 1 January 2018.

Main changes

Previously it was required to have lived in Switzerland for a total of twelve years over one’s lifetime before starting the process. This period has now been reduced to ten years. Although this particular requirement has been relaxed, other more restrictive conditions have been implemented. Moreover, the new law provides additional details as to what constitutes “being well integrated” in Switzerland which is another prerequisite to begin the naturalisation procedure.

10 years of residence in Switzerland

An applicant must have lived in Switzerland for a minimum of ten years, three of those years must be within the last five years prior to the time of the filing of the application. Only years residing in Switzerland with a B-, F- or C-Permit are considered.

Swiss C- permit

At the time of filing, the applicant must have a Swiss C- permit (permanent residence card). This requirement is of particular importance for applicants from countries, which do not have a specific agreement with Switzerland regarding permanent residence. Such individuals are generally only able to apply for a C-Permit after ten years residency in Switzerland.

Be well integrated in Switzerland

The notion of integration is a main prerequisite for Swiss naturalisation. The new rules define this concept in more detail, including specific minimum language requirements, more restrictive requirements to the applicant’s financial situation as well as a more in-depth review of criminal records.

Language skills

The revised rules now refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages guidelines for judging sufficient language skills. An applicant must now have B1 level speaking skills and A2 level writing skills. In addition, most cantons require the language skills to be in the official language of the canton of residence.

Financial independence

Previously, an individual was not eligible to apply for naturalisation if the individual was receiving social welfare at the time of application with no reference to any welfare payments made prior to application. It is now required that the applicant not have received any welfare benefits during the last three years prior to the time of filing the application for citizenship. The authorities can waive this requirement if the support has been reimbursed by the application filing date.

Requirement Old rules valid until 31.12.2017 New rules valid as of 1.1.2018
Years of residence in Switzerland

Twelve years with N-, L-, B-, F- and C- Permit

Years residing in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 count double.

Ten years with B- and C-Permit – Years of residence with F-permit only count 50%

Years residing in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double.

Residence permit type required B-, F- and C- Permit C- Permit
Financial independence Applicant must not be receiving welfare benefits at time of application. Applicant must not have received welfare benefits during the last three years prior to application.
Language skills No federal requirement. Cantonal requirement to language skills of a national language might apply. Minimum requirement of B1 speaking skills and A2 writing skills of a national language.

Additional cantonal and communal requirement

The above-mentioned rules are minimum Federal requirements. Cantons may apply stricter conditions than those outlined in the Federal legislation as well as define the exact process on the cantonal as well as the communal level. For example, some cantons require minimum scores on general Swiss knowledge tests.

In addition to the Federal ten year residence requirement, the applicant may also be subject to additional cantonal and communal residency requirements. For example, the canton of Zug requires applicants to have lived in the canton for at least five years prior to filing the application. In addition, the applicant must have lived in the commune of residence continuously for the last three years.

Canton Years of residence in Switzerland Years of residence in canton Years of continuous residence in commune
Zurich 10 years
2 years 2 years
Zug 10 years 5 years 3 years
Vaud 10 years 2 years Depends on commune

Facilitated naturalisation

Some applicants, due to their personal circumstances, are subject to a facilitated application process. This applies in particular to spouses of Swiss citizens.

Deloitte’s view

Although the Federal Council has been successful in implementing harmonized minimum requirements across Switzerland, in particular for what constitutes being well integrated in Swiss society, the cantons still have considerable leeway in defining this concept as well as control over some key aspects of the naturalisation process. It is, therefore, important for those considering applying for Swiss citizenship to get informed in advance as to the exact Federal, cantonal and communal prerequisites for application in order to avoid losing time and limit frustration with this (somewhat arduous) application process. 

Deloitte has significant experience assisting applicants with managing the end-to-end process, if you are interested in learning more about the Swiss naturalisation process, please contact Timo Heck and Julia Stutzer for further information.

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Renaat Van den Eeckhaut – Partner, Global Employer Services Leader Switzerland and EMEA

Renaat leads the Global Employer Services (GES) Practice for Deloitte Switzerland and EMEA. He specialises in international assignment and cross-border employment matters and advises on tax, social security and international mobility policies. Renaat has nearly 20 years of experience with Deloitte Belgium and Switzerland and has worked with many companies across a broad range of industries. Renaat holds a Master in Law and Accounting Law and has authored many publications on international taxation.

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David Wigersma - Partner, Global Employer Services

David has 17 years of experience in the area of international corporate and individual taxation planning. He specialises in addressing the complex compliance needs of a cross-border workforce with varied elements of compensation.

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Timo Heck - Senior Manager, Immigration

Timo is an Immigration Senior Manager at Deloitte in Switzerland. He advises both domestic and international, listed and private companies on all aspects of Swiss immigration and has deep experience in implementing client-tailored complex immigration processes as well as advising on best-practices to accommodate the specific needs of his clients.

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Julia Stutzer - Senior Manager, Immigration

Julia is an Immigration Senior Manager at Deloitte in Switzerland. She has been supporting both global companies as well as medium and small sized enterprises with their immigration needs for more than 7 years. Julia puts her focus on immigration advisory services, advising clients on best practice and coordinating complex interdisciplinary requests with the tax and social security teams.

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